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Patricia Murphy, who is 88, in her bed in Cork University Hospital.
Patricia Murphy, who is 88, in her bed in Cork University Hospital.

'The health system has been wrecked'; 88-year-old woman speaks from Cork University Hospital bed about the state of A&E

AN 88-year-old Cork woman has spoken for the first time about her experience of lying on a trolley in Cork University Hospital's emergency department.

Patricia Murphy, who is 88, has been in CUH since last Friday and was moved from an A&E cubicle, after 48 hours, onto a trolley in an overcrowded corridor. 

Ms Murphy's husband, aged 90, was also forced to sleep on a trolley in a corridor at CUH for 20 hours last year. 

Speaking from her hospital bed today, Ms Murphy said she was determined to highlight the situation facing patients. 

"I was a nurse," she said. "I campaigned for nurses' rights. I went to the Dáil and to the government for our rights... the nurses are very good here, but their hands are tied."

“I am sitting on a bed now, I was on a trolley. I was hours in the A&E.”

Ms Murphy says she has a question for past governments: “Where has the money that you’ve collected gone? It’s not going into our public services.

90-year-old Bartholomew Murphy, from Ballincollig, who spent close to 20 hours on a trolley in CUH last year.
90-year-old Bartholomew Murphy, from Ballincollig, who spent close to 20 hours on a trolley in CUH last year.

“I’m straight-talking, I won’t say it behind their backs. Where has our money gone? The health system has been wrecked.”

She is also calling for the elderly to be treated with greater respect and says she supports the idea of an A&E specifically for elderly people.

“Elderly people should not be treated this way, like we are not entitled to the care and attention we deserve.

“To the new government: What will you do?”

Ms Murphy’s daughter, Bernadette Walshe, first told The Echo of her mother’s experience on Tuesday, and her 90-year-old father had a similar experience last April.

The family has been overwhelmed by the support since The Echo ran the story.

“My mam has turned a corner now and will be kept in over the weekend. The staff said she will be looked after and she will have a bed," said Bernadette.

The public response has been one of solidarity.

Ms Walshe said: “This story is not just about me, it is about everyone. People can relate to it. If it hasn’t happened to their immediate families, it has happened to their in-laws.”

Thomas Gould and Michael Collins, both recently elected TDs for Cork, have been in touch with the family.

Mr Gould said he was in CUH’s A&E department last Thursday and described the situation as “unbelievable” and “hard to put into words.”

“An elderly woman who was on a trolley grabbed me by the hand and said; ‘Thomas, will you help me? I have been here since Monday.’

“This was Thursday afternoon. Her husband was with her.

“I am not sure of the words to describe it. There are trolleys everywhere.

“Staff are trying to have conversations with patients on trolleys in hallways, trying to read files, trying to have team meetings.

“It’s a huge issue. I don’t think the previous government really understood it. They don’t get it. Sláintecare will be implemented in 10 years, but that’s too long to wait.

“Emergency measures need to happen now, with the allocation of extra staff, beds, nurses and doctors. People’s lives are being put in jeopardy here. It is a crisis.”

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said it is an extremely difficult situation for frontline staff in Cork, especially in relation to elderly patients and the trolley crisis.

Liam Conway, an INMO industrial relations officer, told The Echo there is a “huge problem” with CUH’s emergency department. “It is extremely difficult for staff on the ground. There is not enough bed capacity to allow the trolley crisis to be alleviated.

“There is also not enough staff to allow for more beds to be opened. The incoming government need to act to rectify this situation.”